DuPage County boys basketball notes: Addison Trail recovers from rough stretch

The Addison Trail boys basketball team is back on track.

The Blazers had won two of their last three games before a West Suburban Gold Conference loss to Hinsdale South.

The Blazers (7-19, 2-7) survived a rough patch, where they lost nine straight games in early December.

Addison Trail coach Brendan Lyons said several factors led to the long skid. The Blazers gained some confidence with a 52-51 win over Leyden on Friday.

"We had a rough stretch in the middle of the year, when several guys went down with injuries and sickness," Lyons said. "We lacked consistency from game to game. In the last week, I think we are starting to see that consistency develop. Against Leyden, I thought we did a great job defensively, especially in the second half."

Sophomore guard Luke Smith is building off his promising start, averaging a team-high 17 points per game. Senior forward Joey Morales is averaging 11 points and 8.5 rebounds.

"Luke and Joey have been consistent for us all year," Lyons said. "Luke has found a way to put up big numbers almost every night, even though he's the focal point of everyone's defensive game plan against us. He can score from every level ... He should be within a 1,000 career points by the end of the year.

"Joey has been a rock for us on the defensive end. He's been our leading rebounder in every game, but he has really picked up his scoring in the last two games with 22 points."

Lyons noted the consistent play of senior Trenton Dietz, sophomore Dom Renc and junior Cesar Alvarez.

"Trenton has been guarding our opponent's best player over the last month or so and has done an outstanding job," he said. "If we can stay solid on the defensive end, we can compete in every game we have left. Dom Renc and Cesar Alvarez have seen an increase in minutes since the holidays and their performance has improved every game. Dom has been instant energy every time he has stepped on the floor and is gaining confidence in all facets of his game. Cesar has helped to give us another consistent rebounder at both ends and has stepped up at the offensive end as well."

Glenbard North update:

Glenbard North coach Kevin Tonn anticipated some growing pains this season. The Panthers often start two freshmen and a sophomore. The Panthers (13-11, 3-6 DuKane Conference) have lost three straight games, but Tonn hopes his team can turn the tide before the start of the playoffs.

"We're young, but with our youth and lack of experience from last year's team, we continue to search for consistency and look to learn and get better from each experience," Tonn said.

The development of junior forward JJ Hernandez aided the younger players. The 6-foot-5 Hernandez's solid play helped him become one of the top players in the area. His size, athleticism and ability to get to the rim combined with a solid outside shot is tough for opponents to stop. Hernandez is averaging 16.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.

"JJ has definitely taken a step forward from last year," Tonn said. "Last year he started as a sophomore and had a lot of solid guard play around him. However, after graduating five of those guards, his role on this team has changed. He has really stepped up and been a consistent ballhandler, scorer, rebounder and defensive play guy for us. He does it all."

Sophomore guard Jack Schager is another player to watch for the next two-plus seasons. He possesses a deadly outside shot and doesn't back down from a challenge despite his slight build. The 5-9, 150-pound Schager is shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers, while senior Eddy Redento is averaging 8 points and 4.3 rebounds and freshman Josh Abushanab is averaging 7.5 points and 4.3 rebounds.

"Jack Schager is really starting to come into his own and fill a big role for us," Tonn said. "He's shooting the ball at a high level and making high basketball IQ types of plays. Our goal for the final weeks of the regular season is to continue to work to find consistency. We know we have not played our best basketball yet and look forward to putting four quarters together."

Waubonsie Valley update:

The Warriors made a big splash by pulling off a 64-41 win over Metea Valley in DuPage Valley Conference play last Friday.

Waubonsie Valley senior forward Eric Chtilianov thrilled the large crowd with a two-handed dunk late in the third quarter. Chtilianov scored 11 points to help avenge an earlier loss to the Mustangs, but his crowd-pleasing dunk was the center of attention in the postgame.

Chtilianov said it "was the best dunk of the year, definitely" for him and pushed his season dunk total close to double digits.

"It meant even more because the home crowd was amazing and we had so many people coming and the crowd just went from there," he said.

The Warriors (13-10, 4-3) have the potential to make a run in the Class 4A playoffs, especially if the high-flying Chtilianov continues his upward ascent.

"Eric is a kid who was a "B" team player in his freshman or sophomore year but worked his tail off and played awesome the last 10 games or so," Waubonsie Valley coach Andrew Schweitzer said. "There was a time of the season I moved him out of the starting lineup. He never complained and eventually he earned his way back into the lineup."

Chtilianov said his breakout season might prolong his basketball career, especially if the Warriors can string together some wins in the final few weeks of the regular and beyond.

"I have all my options open, and definitely be interested in the college level, like Division III or anything like that," he said. "I feel I've improved in all aspects, from shooting, passing and dribbling and getting a higher IQ.

"I think this year my role is to be a player who will always bring energy, be a shooter and to do everything I can on the court to get us a win ... Our goal is to win conference, and we still can. This is one step for us to get closer to that goal, and we're just going to keep pushing from there."

Metea Valley update:

Metea Valley coach Isaiah Davis expressed disappointment following Friday's road defeat to Waubonsie Valley but managed to keep things in perspective. The Mustangs (18-7, 4-3) have played consistent basketball since the start of the season, with four wins in their first five games to put them in line for a 20-plus win season. The Mustangs, who host conference leader Neuqua Valley on Friday, bounced back with an impressive 66-50 win over Andrew on Saturday.

Davis said the Mustangs have relied on their wealth of returnees to avoid any extended letdowns.

"We typically defend well, have good scoring and usually play with good tempo," Davis said. "Senior Jahki Gray has had a really good year for us. He's our leading scorer and Will Ashford has been really good for us, with both of them leading us and have played well together.

"Our depth and shooting ability have been good typically. Nick Schroeder has played well for us, a good shooter and defender and has good size. I'm excited for his growth."

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